Typo3 vs Drupal

logo-typo3DrupallogoThere are so many content management systems to choose from, which one is best? I am a firm believer in open source, so I have limited my choice to open source systems. This still leaves a huge long list of CMS (content management systems) to choose from.

A while back I spent a lot of time checking out the options, and after some time, narrowed it down to WordPress or Drupal.

This article provides a little insight about each system, and provides my recommendation about how to choose between the two.

About Typo3

Along the way, I discovered Typo3 - a very powerful and interesting content management system. Typo3 looks like it can do just about anything, and looks extremely flexible. I spent quite a bit of time with it.

The problem with Typo3 is that it is very difficult to set up. The main problem are the templates - very powerful, but they are not based on any standard such as HTML or PHP etc. The developers have invented their own system, and you have to learn it from scratch. This is no trivial proposition, even for people who are good at this sort of thing and very tech-savvy.

Does Typo3 have place in the online world? It certainly does - it allows you do to do just about anything you could possibly imagine with a content management system. If there is a CMS out there with a feature, Typo3 probably has it too.

But this comes at a cost. As they say on the Typo3 website:

“… the flexibility and richness come with a price: complexity. If you’re not ready to spend a month learning the system and are in a hurry to satisfy a customer, you should probably look into getting somebody to help you or look for something else.”

Typo3 is well documented - probably better than any other open source content management system out there. They have a large pdf download library of Typo3 documentation which explains the system very well. The only problem is that you need to read almost all of it to understand the system.

About Drupal

Speaking of something else, Drupal is an excellent candidate. It is very capable, but only as complicated as you make it. The basic install is, well, pretty basic. Although you can do a pretty good website with it, you will almost certainly want to add modules to get it to do everything you want. They beauty of the Drupal system is that you only install what you need, so if you don’t need much, you end up with fairly simple system. Not really simple - if you want really simple and just a blog, WordPress is probably your best choice.

Drupal does take a while to set up, but as long as you are reasonably savvy with the basics of setting up web applications on a server, its not too bad. If you know any HTML and PHP, that will help you if you need to customize templates, but in many cases this will not be necessary. And if you decided to customize your templates and therefore need to learn (or learn more about) HTML and PHP, you will find this knowledge useful for other web projects.

Drupal is easy to get up and running, but takes some time to set up just the way you want. Chances are though, you will be able to get what you want using Drupal, without a huge time investment. And you can get started with something right away, then add modules and build features as you need them.

Drupal or Typo3

Unless you need a very specialized installation for a large organization, you are probably better with Drupal. Between the two, I recommend Typo3 only if Drupal does not meet your must-have requirements, or if you really like fiddling with esoteric systems. If you choose Typo3, you will certainly have a great site, as long as you put in the long hours and hard work to learn it properly.

Information About Content Management Systems

A good place to research content management systems is the CMS Matrix. It consists of a very long list of content management systems, popular and obscure, free and paid. It lists the features of each, and allows you to do a feature-by-feature comparison between several systems that you select.

Related Article - WordPress vs. Drupal

All of my fully operational websites use WordPress, and I am in the process of setting up some websites using Drupal.

Update! I now have two fully operational Drupal sites: an allergy information website, and my own SEO Service and Technical Writing Service website. The content is not complete, and the allergy site will have more modules added. Both sites work very well.

You can read my comparison of Drupal and WordPress.



I can recommend Drupal over Typo3 for nearly ANYTHING. Typo3 is very flexible, yes, however, it has a much larger learning curve for those who need to administer the site and who are not typical “IT geeks”. I would say that most of my customers don’t want to give the inner workings of their web sites much thought. They are business people, or run associations or non-profit organizations. They have different things on their mind and are easily confused by Typo3’s complex back end. I have tought Typo3 and Drupal to this target group a lot and I must say: there is no incident where people found Typo3 particularly easy or straight forward to use (think of adding new users to the site, you click on the site tree and NOT on the user administration which I always found extremely odd). For Drupal, teaching how to use the new web site seemed MUCH much easier for my clients. Using Typo3 it mostly took me about 3 to 4 sessions of 2-3 hours until almost all aspects of Typo3 were learnt. Afterwards I still had A LOT of support inquiries. Using Drupal, after just ONE 3 hour session of training, the client was able to do ANYTHING with his new site, from adding or editing content to rearranging menues or adding complete new sections or even functionality. Support was VERY sporadic after these trainings with Drupal, very different to using Typo3 — again, I am talking about people who run their business and are not IT geeks!!!

After a survey we did with our customers it also was very clear that those who have a Drupal powered web site were MUCH MORE satisfied then those with a Typo3 web site.

One thing I also must say: most freelance programmers I ran into were Typo3 enthusiast - here in Germany, Typo3 seems huge. Converting these to Drupal programmers is a HARD thing and the main reason seams to be this:

If they were used to code with Typo3 and built web sites with that system, programmers tend to think far to complicated when approching Drupal. Most simply don’t get the easiness and straightforwardness of Drupal. They have huge problems using the API to a full extend as they tend to think they are constantly “hacking other people’s code”, not using existing functions and rerouting them through own code to alter functionality as desired.

Programmers that are not typically used to work with Drupal but are used to API programming however get a VERY quick and easy entrance into the world of Drupal.

As a summary: there certainly is never just one thing that can do everything. There’s a funny word in German which describes that - here my humble attempt to render that word into English: wer’re talking about an egg-laying wool-milk pig. Ain’t such thing, right? Okay, back to work: Drupal is great but might not be suitable for everything. Typo3 however is suitable ONLY for straight forward websites with a fixed structure and people administering it that do at least have some knowledge in IT thinking (to put it this way). Drupal however is much more flexible then Typo3 - both in functionality as well as scaleability. For large sites with a lot of interaction, Drupal will need a stronger server then maybe other stuff. Typo3 however will become some sort of a scalability problem quite soon.

My advice: anything from small to mid-size, no matter what the desired functionality, but especially for community driven stuff, Drupal is your baby. Typo3 - well if your client insists on it… Anything LARGE and HEAVY USE, rather opt for doing it with a rapid developlment framework such as Ruby on Rails or Cake, Symphony… you name these frameworks.

Panatlantica / January 28th, 2007, 12:13 pm / #

Thanks for the long and detailed comment, Panatlantica. This should help people make a decision. Actually, it convinces me to throw out the binders I have on my bookshelf with Typo3 documentation - I’ve already decided that I won’t be working with Typo3 - now or ever. It may have its merits, but As I said in my original article, Drupal looks like it can do everything I need and had load of plugins to extend functionality. So why learn lots of systems?
That’s a good point about administration for clients - Typo3 looks cool at first because of its complicated back end, but after a while, you find it hard to do anything, then you hear from others that a simpler system can do it all and more!

web / January 28th, 2007, 1:21 pm / #

After serious consideration and several readings on Open Source CMS, I think I’ll have to choose drupal over typo3. I want to cook up a quick community site with loadable module but solid backend. typo3 backend seem more sound than drupal(gathered from sources), but I choose drupal over typo3 due to the fact that it follows standards and flexibility.

swellowl / January 29th, 2007, 6:22 pm / #

Hi guys, I used to love drupal I spend over 2 years using it, until I found TYPO3, with all the respect Drupal is great but when we are talking about enterprise solution, where you have a distribute content generation proccess, with a lot roles and access control policies, when you ahve tu set up workflows for many sections on your site (or sites, Intranet, extranet, etc) then I think Drupal it’s not enough. Maybe installing a lot of modules of drupal and even modifying it to feet your needs you could set up these requierements, but then who is the one who “is very difficult to set up”?
So if you have e scenario like i describe above, I truly recomend TYPO3.

Yanier Castellanos / May 1st, 2007, 1:53 pm / #

You bring up a good point there, Yanier. There is a place for everything. Typo3 must have its own strengths or no one would use it.

In a way, its like saying a wrench is better than a pair of pliers. This is only true in certain situations, and the very statement has certain unstated implications.

Thanks for highlighting the type of application where Typo3 is really better than Drupal.

At some point I will have to write another article and clarify more. I’ll certainly keep your comment in mind in terms of highlighting what Typo3 is good for.

Doug / May 1st, 2007, 2:23 pm / #

Thanks everyone for all the insight. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear the terms “workflow” and “SEO” floating about… half the searches I come across end up with “Wordpress is my CMS of choice!”

I’ll be loading up Drupal and be keeping Typo3 in the back of my mind if ever I need more that Drupal can offer.

Godfrey / May 27th, 2008, 4:15 pm / #

As I familiar with both the CMS. The Typo3 is greate. Its backend is mind blowing and User friendly. Also its User management is classic. You cann’t compare Drupal with the Typo3 in the User Management. Also the Interface with the html template is very easy in the Typo3 as compare to Drupal.

Harsh / November 1st, 2008, 9:07 am / #

[…] Dans l’opposition entre TYPO3 et Drupal, par exemple, vous pouvez vous référer à deux articles sur les fonctionnalités de chacun : TYPO3 vs Drupal CMS et TYPO3 vs Drupal. […]

Comparer et choisir son CMS : Qui est le meilleur ? | bertrandkeller / May 12th, 2009, 8:07 am / #

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